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New friend wants to take her kids out of the room when we nurse. What would you say?

post #1 of 136
Thread Starter 

So this is a frustrating, mystifying situation to me. We are military, living in South Korea. I stay home with my 3 yo son, who I am still nursing. We live on the side of a mountain, kind of far from everything and it has been very isolating. The other mothers at the nearby base are more "conventional" and give me "looks" if they've seen us nursing, so I don't have a lot of connections there. I have two AP friends, but we have to drive 45 min to see one and an hour and 20 to see the other, so we don't see them too often, just a few times a month. We have a year left here. I've been dreading it, hunkering down for this coming winter, until a new family moved to our little neighborhood. They have 3 boys they are homeschooling, ages 5, 7, and 11. I have tons and tons to talk about with the mom, and my son has never looked happier than when he is playing with her boys. We've had them over twice, been to their house a twice, to the playground and out to eat, and they saw us nurse every time, and never said anything. Until two days ago, at my house, my son popped off to ask me a question and for that instant my boob was "out". The mom called me when they got home to ask that in the future I give her a heads up when we are going to nurse, so she can take her boys to another room. She was trying to be super nice and apologetic about it. I offered to do a better job staying covered, which I'm admittedly not as concerned with in my house and I thought it wasn't an issue, but no, she just wants to take her 3 kids into some other room whenever my son needs to nurse, because she doesn't want them seeing "that" "until they are ready." She nursed her kids, but hid her own nursing breasts from her own children under a cover.

I am a bit dumbfounded and depressed. I find it hard to imagine anyone who has nursed their children STILL believing that breasts are sex toys for men, unfit to be seen by innocent eyes. And how much more will it attract their attention than when it is painted red with "forbidden"? Her boys barely noticed. I am not famously endowed with Dolly Parton boobs. I have almost 40 year-old tired out, half empty milk bags that just about couldn't be less sexy. Now everything would slam to a stop each time my son asks to nurse, and what kind of message does it send to my son when everyone leaves the room? That he is doing something wrong and indecent?

I hate to let them go though. I have enjoyed getting to know them. The boys are GREAT boys, my son completely adores them, and it has been so awesome having adult conversation several times a week instead of several times a month. I was actually feeling like this last year of exile might not be so bad. And now here I am, painted the creepy crunchy mom. I want to tell her I am not feeding my son with dildos attached to my chest, that breasts are made for feeding children, nothing else- we are MAMMALS after all. But I mean, if breastfeeding her oldest didn't teach her the true purpose of boobs, what will? How do I go forward becoming friends, while there is this judgement in the air, that what I am doing is unfit to be seen by her children? She even said that if she had girls, it would be different. How? Does she think her own sons are inborn perverts? I told her that breasts are not sexualized in most cultures and that since they don't watch TV her boys probably don't see them that way, but she didn't buy it. And since she nursed under a cover in front of them, they probably already have the idea that these things have lasers and are dangerous. Maybe that's what I should tell my son? Our friend thinks boobies have lasers that can hurt her kids eyes...?

post #2 of 136

Maybe it's just a modesty and privacy issue, not so much that it's bad, just a taboo to be respected? 3 year olds don't need nursing that often anymore usually, the issue probably won't come up too often when you happen to be together. She was nice about it, didn't complain your child is too old or you need to use a cover or anything mean like that, I'd just let her go on with her plan to take a break when he needs nursing.

post #3 of 136
I wouldn't give them up. I would just take your son to a different room. Or if you have a chair you can rotate to face away from them.

They are going to make such a huge difference in your day to day life. Just try to make more private nursing happen without too much disruption or anger.

How lucky someone like that moved in!!
Edited by Springshowers - 11/9/13 at 2:21pm
post #4 of 136

I don't think it needs to be a deal breaker.  You said yourself she was really nice and apologetic about it, so it doesn't sound so much that she's being judgmental as she is trying to protect her own values. You don't have to agree with them, and I don't think it is that big a deal to simply move to another room to nurse the 3-year-old.  I know my 3-year-old doesn't nurse that much anymore, particularly when there are friends around to keep him busy :)

 

My initial thought was that she was most concerned about the 11-year-old boy, who presumably will be entering puberty soon.  I admit I would be a little uncomfortable having a boy that age seeing my breasts, even briefly.  In theory, it is good for kids to learn that breasts are not sexual toys, etc., but it sounds like it's just a comfort thing for her and that's her choice.

 

In the end, if it makes you that upset, then it could be a deal breaker for you, and that's okay too.  I just don't think it automatically has to be since she dealt respectuflly with the whole thing, and even offered to be the one to move her kids out of the room rather than asking you to leave.

post #5 of 136
I've been isolated before and know how that feels.

Still, I would not want to invite her taboo/ feelings about breasts into my family, telling my kids would bring that concept to them. My 11 yo son thinks nothing of seeing my breasts. He nursed until 5, and then watched his 3 siblings nurse until 5, 4 & 3. I'm pregnant now. They will be at the birth. That's our family, no creepy sexualization of breasts under the guise of modesty or anything else.

So, for me, having to explain her issues to my kids would be too much. I really would prefer to shelter us from that sort of thing. My 11 yo is old enough to understand that other people have weird issues, but my younger kids might internalize them.

Do you think you're as valuable a friend to her and she is to you? You should be. Maybe this deserves more discussion if you are both invested in maintaining your relationship.
post #6 of 136
I agree with tabitha the notion that it is something wrong or to be hidden is deal breaker for me.
post #7 of 136

I think it's crazy to consider ending, or risking, a valuable relationship over this.  She was polite. He's 3 - how often does he nurse?  Why not just nurse him before or after you hang out with them, or if he has a meltdown and must nurse when you're with them, take him into another room.  I suspect he won't require an explanation, unless you make a big deal out of it.  I wouldn't ask them to leave the room you're in, since that would be more of a production.

post #8 of 136

If this were a normal situation where you had a community of people, plenty of friends, and someone insisited that you give  a heads up when nursing in your own home, that would be a dealbreaker for me. But, you need her as a friend. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices and concessions to be friends with people who may not have the same feelings about things as we do. Honestly, if you were nursing your newborn, and you saw that this was going to be a huge part of your life and your friendship with her, Id probably end it, but at most it would only happen 1-2 times when you guys are hanging out, right?

 

But, toddlers and their drive by nursing arent always too cool with all their friends leaving so they can nurse. it seems likely that he might want to go with them....

post #9 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by greenemami View Post

I don't think it needs to be a deal breaker.  You said yourself she was really nice and apologetic about it, so it doesn't sound so much that she's being judgmental as she is trying to protect her own values. You don't have to agree with them, and I don't think it is that big a deal to simply move to another room to nurse the 3-year-old.  I know my 3-year-old doesn't nurse that much anymore, particularly when there are friends around to keep him busy smile.gif

My initial thought was that she was most concerned about the 11-year-old boy, who presumably will be entering puberty soon.  I admit I would be a little uncomfortable having a boy that age seeing my breasts, even briefly.  In theory, it is good for kids to learn that breasts are not sexual toys, etc., but it sounds like it's just a comfort thing for her and that's her choice.

In the end, if it makes you that upset, then it could be a deal breaker for you, and that's okay too.  I just don't think it automatically has to be since she dealt respectuflly with the whole thing, and even offered to be the one to move her kids out of the room rather than asking you to leave.

Exactly. 11 can be an odd age for kids, since she was polite in her request I wouldn't end a friendship just because she may be more modest than you know. Unless you are together to large parts of the day I would guess your son could be held off a but with other snacks. Maybe just keep the visits brief so that your son can hold out until you leave to nurse again.
post #10 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by rktrump View Post
 

I think it's crazy to consider ending, or risking, a valuable relationship over this.  She was polite. He's 3 - how often does he nurse?  Why not just nurse him before or after you hang out with them, or if he has a meltdown and must nurse when you're with them, take him into another room.  I suspect he won't require an explanation, unless you make a big deal out of it.  I wouldn't ask them to leave the room you're in, since that would be more of a production.

 

I agree with this, and others who have said that they wouldn't end the friendship over this.  Your friend was respectful, you indicated that both you and your son get a lot out of this friendship, and you don't know what drives your friend's concerns/insecurities (history of abuse, very conservative upbringing, husband with issues, all of the above).  I agree that it seems nuts and fully support extended BF (I'm still nursing my 2.5 year old), but I think you can handle this in a way that shields your son from any weirdness/insecurities.  My friends and family don't parent in the exact same way that we do, and being respectful and tolerant to that (within reason) is a two-way street.  If it were me I'd make concessions to this request (and probably take my son to another room if he needed to nurse instead of having everyone else leave the area) rather than lose a relationship that is beneficial to me and my son.....especially given the limited opportunities to foster friendships with other more like-minded families. 

post #11 of 136
Since she was respectful I think you shouldn't write her off. She believes something differently than you but I don't think it's personal against you. She's probably just modest. Please don't let her go, good friends are hard to come by.
post #12 of 136

You don't see your breast as sexy right now but an 11 year old boy sure might. They are just machines to us but not to others. I have a teen son and I would not want my nursing friends exposing themselves to him.  I applaud the mom for speaking up. It sounds like she did it in the most respectful way. I'm sure your friendship is good enough to move past it. It sounds like the relationship has brought joy to both you and your son so that is reason enough to keep it going.

post #13 of 136

I understand you are isolated and don't have a lot of friends in that area, but my thinking is: "Something is really off with this woman." (The "friend", not you.) 

 

She nursed her own children without letting them "see" her breast????? I'm sorry, excuse my French, but WTF I've been around breastfeeding mothers my entire life and I was a LLL leader for 20 years and have been a lactation consultant for more than 20 years.... and I've never seen a breastfeeding mother act like that.... ever......

 

My issue would be with her: What's next?  What will she want you to hide about yourself in the future? Will she expect you to hide if you get pregnant again because she "doesn't want her kids to know about THAT?"  I don't think she was the least bit "respectful" to tell you not to nurse in your own home. I think she's acting like a self -insulated prude and honestly, her disrespectful, prudish, intolerant behavior would definitely be a deal breaker for me.

 

I had one friend who had a "problem" with my breastfeeding my first child. We were at their house once and her then 11 year old son was looking in my diaper bag and asked where my 5 week old dd's "baby food" was. I told him she was too young for baby food. Then he asked where her bottles were. I told him she didn't take bottles. Then he asked, "Then how does she get her formula?" I started to explain and his mother shouted "NO!" and sent him out of the room.  (He hadn't even been breastfed for a single feeding, himself.) She looked at me and said, "He doesn't know about that. Just tell him you forgot your bottle at home." I told her I refused to lie to her son, then got up and found the boy and told the child to ask his father how babies whose mothers don't use formula eat... and we left. We didn't see much of them after that, I simply wasn't comfortable around such thinking, and we learned later they had an extremely dysfunctional family life, drugs, lies, abuse, hidden stuff galore, and heaven knows what else. Honest people ACT and live honestly. All the time.  People who want others to hide things are almost always hiding something themselves. I, personally, couldn't continue a relationship, with these types of limitations and dishonesties with someone who was this dishonest with her own children and wanted YOU to play along with her dishonest behavior.

 

I'm sure it's very hard to be in such a situation, but I know how I would react to such treatment. My children are the most important part of my life. Anyone who objects to how I raise and feed my children and want me to pretend I'm something I'm not are simply not people I can get happily continue a friendship with.  I can be friends with women who don't breastfeed... as long as they don't expect me to act as if I am not a breastfeeder. Honesty is more important in my life than one most likely tainted relationship.

 

I know little to nothing about how the military works, how long is your husband's deployment? Is there a way your family can move to a more.... populated area?  I don't know if this is possible, but anything is better than having a limited, dishonest relationship simply because "no one else is around." Yes, friendships are important, but when someone disrespects you in your OWN home and wants you to pretend to be someone you are not, how "strong"  or important is the friendship from HER point of view?

 

I feel for you, it's difficult to live in a foreign country but I'm assuming this is a temporary situation? Hugs to you and I hope your family is able to work something out so that you and your son can be less isolated and alone. What does your husband think of this situation? Does he have any suggestions on how to make your life more bearable in a foreign country? Is there a military base where you could meet other military wives and mothers? It's got to be better than this situation.

 

Blessings.

 

:Hug 


Edited by MaggieLC - 9/15/13 at 1:17pm
post #14 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaggieLC View Post

Honest people ACT and live honestly. All the time.  People who want others to hide things are almost always hiding something themselves. I, personally, couldn't continue a relationship, with these types of limitations and dishonesties with someone who was this dishonest with her own children and wanted YOU to play along with her dishonest behavior.

This, exactly!
post #15 of 136

I disagree with the idea that you should limit your son's nursing or get up and move to a private area.  If your friend is in your home and wants a heads up before you nurse, she should just watch to see when you begin lifting your shirt.  That can be her cue to get her uptight butt out of your home.

post #16 of 136
Oh dear, what a hard situation! Normally, anyone who dared put limits or restrictions on my breastfeeding relationship with my kids would not be welcome in my life. Not at all. However, I've been isolated too, and I know how hard that can be. I don't think it'd be a dealbreaker for me in your case. But I'd have to say something about it.
Now, what would I say? Hmm. I'm thinking on the fly here ...
Something like, "I really appreciate your honesty about how you feel about me nursing my son when you and your kids are around. Thanks for not being silent and weird about it. But I have to say that I was offended by your implication that it's something to hide. I totally get that i have no idea what it's like to parent an 11 yr old boy, but I hope when my boy is that age that I'll be able to have a frank conversation about things might make him uncomfortable but that I hope he'll 'get'. I'm happy to keep my nursing for times when you and your kids aren't around. I really value having you in my life and I'd hate for this to ruin our friendship, but I had to be honest about how I felt. I hope you understand."
Hugs, mama. I'd be putting on the kettle for tea were I in the neighbourhood!
post #17 of 136

Well I get you're in a tough situation. You thought you found someone like minded; a new BFF for you and great friends for your son. Suddenly she isn't who you thought she was. You are heart broken.

 

This is a temp situation and having her and her sons makes life more bearable until this moment.

 

This lady never breastfed in front of her kids. We really don't have all the reasons why BUT her philosophy and yours don't mesh about breasts being out & freely seen while breastfeeding.

 

You say breasts are functional and not sex toys but how do we know her 11 yr old didn't make a comment when they got home? I have read other posts of a mom whose 11 yr old son saw her breastfeed all his other 3 siblings...great but he grew up watching that pretty consistently. Does that mean he sees all breasts as functional meal pieces? Will that boy never sexualize breasts? What about the fact puberty hits all at different times? What if that kid went to his dad and said he had gotten an erection or felt funny when your boob popped out? Who knows what the 11 yr old or the other boys stated or asked when they got home? What about the children's comfort levels? ---When a child is not around breastfeeding consistently they might not see it as "normal" or be comfortable.

 

In an episode of "Rules of Engagement" Adam's mom walks around the apt naked freaking out Jenn but Adam is all so what; it is normal. Jenn later says she was brought up w/ a healthy dose of guilt and shame so it is crazy that his mom is naked. Adam asks Jeff who states it is crazy BUT all families are crazy unless you are a part of that family!  Such a true statement so I am not judging your friend or you.

 

I still nurse a 2 year old but  I run around in yoga pants and over-sized T-shirts now. I just pull my shirt out in front and slip over LO's head when milk is requested and then I stand and slip LO back out when done. My fat belly and my boobs are always hidden and if I need to cradle LO then I still can w/ lots of privacy. Personally I believe in energy exchange is happening while nursing so I like it to be private. I don't want anyone to stare or send bad vibes my way. Call me crazy for coco puffs I don't care.

I want my baby to feel love when I nurse her so I prefer to nurse her alone if I am out. Yes I have a VERY different view on breastfeeding and energy but I respect any women who whips them out in public b/c a kid has got to eat.  I look at that as a beautiful moment but to me a private moment, so I would never disrupt a nursing mom and always smile if I see and catch the mom's eye so that positive energy goes their way. I realize many see it in a gross or sexual way and never wanted to expose my LO to that energy.  Again a different view here since I know women who whip it out like they're simply milk hoses and will challenge anyone who even looks their way.

 

There are many different views on breastfeeding. BUT in your case many unanswered questions still about the whole situation that don't need to be answered but considered as possible reasons for your friend's request. She was nice in her request.

 

The real question is---- CAN YOU get past this?

 

Do you make a statement and cut her out of your life which also makes your son's life more miserable? OR do you start going into another room like maybe the kitchen and tell your son you want to nurse there b/c you are thirsty? Can you find a way to move forward so that your son has friends and you can have adult conversation?

 

If you will always resent her then you need to limit interaction or else end the friendship. Otherwise have an open discussion of what makes her comfortable and how to handle future nursing and continue as friends with you both respecting your differences.

post #18 of 136
I've been in your shoes.... Living far away from family without many friends. I wouldn't let go of a friendship over this. I would try to time nursing around visits and/or offer to leave the room. It would be nice to get to spend one on one time with one of the kids while the others are being looked after and it would preserve the friendship.

Being a military wife myself I'm wondering if this family is particularly religious. We have many, many friends who are modest for religious reasons. Nursing out in the open, especially when the little one is no longer an infant, may have made the mom uncomfortable but also could have made the 11 year old uncomfortable. Many families actively teach teen and pre teen boys to avoid situations where they perceive something immodest to be going on. The 11 year old may have confided in his mom later abut how uncomfortable it made him feel and what he should do if it happens again so the mom politely said to you she would like to take her kids out of the room next time. She wasn't asking you to do anything different, just to be allowed to excuse herself and her children until they felt comfortable returning.
post #19 of 136

Try not to judge her.  It can be hard and feel personal, but most of all, do not let it affect what you are doing, which is absolutely the right thing to do--feeding your baby on demand, regardless of when it is and where you are.  That's natural.

 

Being natural is, sadly, not always easy.  But it IS always right.  If others choose not to be natural, that's their choice...and if they ask that you give fair warning, respect their wishes and do so--without shame or apology, but just as a respectful matter of fact.  Give them 10 seconds to clear the room then hop to it.  :-)

 

Be well.

post #20 of 136
i think i'd come down where most of the other replies did: i can't imagine trying to build a real-world friendship with this family, but during your remaining year, you and your son need social contact. so you are being pragmatic to continue the relationship and find ways to make their mom happy while not sending any bad messages to your son. social contact is SO important. seriously, it's huge in the happiness research. so important that even just the social interactions with your coworkers who you have nothing in common with (and think you don't even particularly like) are crucial to your wellbeing (one underrated reason why unemployment is so emotionally trying).

it also occurred to me like many of the others mentioned, who knows what kind of comment the 11-yr-old might have made? if he was on a cell phone conversation to his friend back in the states, what cooler status symbol to a kid that age than to brag about seeing a girl's boobs? not to all kids, but given what you now know (she always covered up, has body shame, etc), would that be a surprise?

and i can see how that would be distressing to the other mom. i don't think she's handling it the right way, at all! but if that happened (she overheard her son saying something about having seen your boobs to his friend, especially if he said it in an overtly sexual way, and especially if she can't possibly imagine her son thinks those things), i do understand why she'd feel exceptionally awkward.

maybe you can copy-paste the discussion on this thread into a document, edit out the stuff you think might be too harsh/offensive (or come across too condescending) to someone like her, and share it with her? say, here are some thoughts we've kicked about on the internet, and i'm trying to figure out how i feel about this and how i want to deal with this, b/c it's important, and i don't make rash decisions just because i am confronted with something challenging or find my beliefs at odds with the people around me... in light of what other people who think more like me have contributed, can you think of any ways we can resolve this that honors both of our very real needs to preserve a sense of being in control of what matters to us in how our sons perceive matters surrounding breasts & breastfeeding? that would be a way to honor & give the benefit of the doubt to someone who is cool enough to hear it. i have no idea if she could receive that message the right way, but maybe you can assess how she might react?

i just thought that when you wrote it on paper, you sounded so reasonable and sympathizable, and maybe she will also feel that way if she reads it, assuming there is nothing included in what you share with her that might make her defensive...

good luck, and let us know how things unfold!
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